tonight on "nightline" -- kidnapped, from little girls, to that american woman in somalia. they lived the nightmare of abduction and escaped. we tell you what they did right to get out alive. what happens in vegas. on the road in nevada, the president talks with abc's diane sawyer, about that amazing rescue. and his own self-doubt. >> you don't second-guess yourself? >> i second-guess myself constantly. and saving their spots. they're very cute. but they're also very in danger. why these little leopards are fighting for their lives.
good evening. i'm juju chang. kidnapped. it's a terrifying act that happens thousands of times a year. now, we've discovered that sometimes escape can come with a young girl calling 911 in the face of incredible danger. for aid worker, jessica buchanan, it involves somehow enduring three months of captivity, to be rescued by an elite team of commandos. s.e.a.l. team 6 had a jackpot when they completed their mission. tonight, martha raddatz brings us amazing stories of survival. >> reporter: the image today was stark, yet powerful. a 13-year-old girl in suburban new york, running for her life. leaving behind her the stunned would-be captor. the young girl punched before she fled. the first terrifying minutes of a kidnapping attempt, often the best chance to escape. >> it's a great idea to run. most people think the kidnappers are going to chase them or shoot
at them or do any sort of a number of really negative, bad things. when, in fact, the kidnappers are not prepared to chase. >> my worth nightmare. >> reporter: 9-year-old calysta cordova did not run in those first moments. she was held for 18 hours. but when her kidnapper took her into a convenient store, calysta took charge of her own fate. >> she looked at me point in my eyes. i ain't going nowhere. i'm going to wait for my momma. i looked at the guy. he spun around and high-tailed it out of there. >> for whatever reason, in the way those kids were raised, they were taught to be a little bit self-aware. i don't think children innately have that ability. and they can simply be prepared easily enough without frightening them. their parents probably gave them a new tools in the way they were raised. >> reporter: for jessica buchanan, with close to a dozen heavily-armed men, dragging her
from a car in a foreign country, the choices were much more limited. >> her first thought is, are they going to kill me? or do they want something else? >> reporter: steve dani trained on what to do if that didn't work. how do you overcome that fear of actually being in a situation like that? >> obviously, very difficult to take emotion and put it to the side. but if you think of it in terms of if you don't, you're not going to survive, you go towards a much more rational way of thinking. >> reporter: rachel and powell chandler were held by somali pirates for 13 months before a ransom secured their release. >> it led to one of those surreal moments. i was doing my yoga in the early evening. we ended up in the yoga class. we didn't do anything in the front. four or five gangsters behind me, doing the same movements.
honestly, you couldn't make it up. >> there has to be a relationship developed with the captor. not inciting the captors. not getting them more nervous. beginning to understand what it is they want. if you can understand what it is they want, you may be able to facilitate your own release. >> by all rights, they should have taken us out. >> reporter: don mann, a former member of navy s.e.a.l. team 6, the same unit that rescued buchanan, was once a hostage himself, along with three other s.e.a.l.s, when they were caught by more than a dozen armed men during a mission. >> fortunately for us, we talked ourselves out of that one. you have to stay calm. you don't want to appear to be a threat. you don't want to be threatening in any way. and you have to immediately start thinking of a way to escape. >> reporter: escape, however, is not always an option. >> these hostages were blindfolded where they were taken. so, they had no idea where they were. there's probably an intent by
the captors to disorientate where they are. if i can get out of the cell, if i can get out of the staockade,i can get to freedom. >> reporter: freedom came to jessica buchanan thanks to the navy s.e.a.l.s, a daring rescue and a violent gun fight. for buchanan and her fellow hostage, one more test of will. >> rescue attempt, there's going to more likely be shooting. if you hear shooting, the first thing you want to do is quickly get down to the ground and stay down to the ground and not move. listen to every command they say. and just comply. >> reporter: but even surviving a hostage ordeal doesn't always end the nightmare. >> life, as they knew it, was gone, from when the kidnapping began. and when they begin to understand that they have to find a new normal, if you will, and a new state of happiness, that was different than what the other one was, that is when the healing process will really begin to become complete. >> reporter: that is what jessica buchanan is doing tonight at a military base in
italy. with the help of counselors, talking about the terror of captivity, so she can heal. but hopefully remembering that it wasn't just the navy s.e.a.l.s that saved her, she is a survivor. for "nightline," i'm martha raddatz, in washington. >> with the sheer will to survive. just ahead, president obama talks to diane sawyer about his reaction to the news of the latest daring rescue. and why it hit so close to home. [ hermann ] there's always something that's going to have to be done by a certain date. you always have homework, okay? i don't have homework today. it's what's right here is what is most important to me. it's beautiful. ♪ ♪
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up to take on his republican opponents in the high-stakes battle for the white house. while the president was on the road, he granted an exclusive and candid interview to abc's diane sawyer. >> hello, nevada. >> reporter: if president obama's polls signal he's in danger of losing the presidency, he signaled today, he's going to be fighting back. are you going to win? >> yes. >> reporter: how much do you want it? >> badly because i think the country needs it. >> that's simply unexcusablunex. >> reporter: as the men vying to replace him battle it out in florida. >> he's characterizing me inaccurately and he knows it. >> reporter: we met up with the president in las vegas, at u.p.s. >> we have to have an all-out, all-in, all of the above strategy, that uses every source of energy. >> reporter: one of the plans he laid out in his state of the
union address tuesday night. >> create these jobs. >> reporter: but it was a moment just before the state of the union -- >> good job tonight. good job tonight. >> reporter: -- that may have put him in such a good mood. the knowledge that, as he spoke, s.e.a.l. team 6, the same elite navy team unit that killed osama bin laden, had just performed another incredible military feat. rescuing that kidnapped american aid worker, jessica buchanan, from a gang of somali thugs. he told me what it was like to deliver the good news to jessica's father, just after the speech finished. >> i cannot imagine what he went through, you know, given, you know, malia and sasha. and for him to be able to stay strong and then for, you know, our incredible men and women in uniform, to do what they do, it makes you proud about this country. >> reporter: but despite praise
for the raid, and what many see is a string of bold foreign policy decisions -- >> for the first time in two decades, osama bin laden is not a threat to this country. [ applause ] >> reporter: the president faces some daunting statistics at home. unemployment at a painfully 8.5%. 61% of americans saying the country is on the wrong track. numbers that make president obama one of the most vulnerable incumbents in history. watching the debates? >> you know, i don't watch the debates, i got to say. i read the reports. and what i get a sense of, is whoever wins the republican primary, is going to be a standard-bearer for a vision of the country that i don't think reflects who we are. >> reporter: we got a lot of questions after the state of the union from our partners at yahoo! and they said the same thing. why didn't this happen in the first three years?
why is he talking about this now? >> well, first of all, in the first three years, we did a whole lot, which is why we're in a position now to tonight the growth. look, the auto industry, which has now created 160,000 jobs and sees gm as the number one automaker in the world again, that didn't just happen by accident, diane. >> reporter: you don't second-guess yourself? >> i second-guess myself constantly. look, i make a mistake, every hour, every day. you know, there's always things that you're learning in the job, that i have no doubt that i'm a better president now than the day i took office, just because you get more experience. >> reporter: a key part of his message, the so-called buffett rule, named after billionaire investor, warren buffett. revising the tax code so that the wealthiest americans are taxed at the same rate as those who get a paycheck, like buffett's secretary, who was a guest of the first lady at the
state of the union. governor romney said this is class warfare. and it is social engineering. >> the question to ask them is, we now have the lowest tax rates in 50 years. we have a test of mr. romney or mr. gingrich or mr. santorum's theories. we tried it for ten years. it resulted in a huge crash that lost us the most jobs since the 1930s. and why we would want to adopt something that we just tried and did not work doesn't make sense. >> reporter: a quick question about the family. do they have you on their ring tone now? singing? ♪ so in love with you >> reporter: or were they embarrassed? >> i don't think they were embarrassed. i sure have done more embarrassing things to them than singing a little al green. >> reporter: you told us before the first campaign that sasha had said to you, are you going to be sad if you lose? >> fortunately, they don't spend
too much time worrying about their daddy's job. they have their own stuff to worry about. including, doing their homework, cleaning their room, and the state of their sports teams. >> reporter: and speaking of sports teams, we asked the fan in chief -- what is it? giants/pats? >> i can't call it. i can't call it. when the bears are not involved, i cannot make predictions because i'll get into trouble. >> reporter: you went with your heart. two years ago, we talked. you had the saints. >> i love what that team has meant to new orleans. i'm sure they're going to get another chance. >> reporter: another chance. exactly what the president will be working for in the year to come. for "nightline," i'm diane sawyer, in las vegas. >> in a city where chance counts. next up, they are lethally cute. but these cubs are also in the fight for their lives. i have what science calls the "nightly stuffy nose thing": i can't breathe... so i can't sleep...
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they are so beautiful and so charming, it's killing them. clouded leopards are native to the tree tops of southeast asia. but somewhere along the way, they began to mix with humans. they began desirable pets. and even more desirable prey. tonight, abc's dan harris crawls into their cage,series, "into the wild." >> reporter: they look pretty friendly. making meows and purrs. seemingly whining for attention. but this is the view from safely outside the cage. and this story requires that i go in. my last moments with all of my digits and limbs. these are clouded leopards. okay. hi, guys. sisters named belle and button. only a few months old. how are you doing?
at first, they're not particularly interested in me. but then -- >> they like to pull you out. and don't be afraid to swat them. i mean, lightly. but they should know the word no. >> reporter: that hurt. next target, our camera. >> that's a close-up. >> reporter: since these girls seem very playful and nice -- you can really hold them like a cat, a baby. -- i decide to actually pick one up. what are you doing? ow. these are clouded leopard bite marks. not that bad. >> bite marks. >> reporter: love bites. okay. so, maybe i exaggerated just a little bit. their congeniality, along with their cuteness, is a big reason clouded leopards are now endangered in the wild.
now, i have a friend. when they're raised by humans, like belle and button have been, they're almost like house cats, which means many people want them as pets. they like under the neck, huh? another threat, people who hunt and kill these animals to sell their coats for fancy clothing or their bones for traditional chinese medicine. conservationists say these days they're seeing more clouded leopards in more animal markets in asia than tigers. >> you're going to see the pelts because they've killed all the tigers. they've gone down to the next-largest cat species. and clouded leopards happen to be it. >> reporter: in the wild, there's a bull's eye on these animals? >> uh-huh. >> reporter: that's ken lang, from the smithsonian zoo, in washington, d.c., who has spent years breeding these animals. breeding them in captivity, he says, is a sort of life insurance program for the species, in case they do extinct in the wild. right now, we're at a breeding center at a zoo in thailand, where they have dozens of
cloudys, as they're known. you may noticed, belle and button have really warmed up. are you going to bite me? is this what i get for petting you? >> they also have the largest canines of any of the cats for their body size. >> reporter: that's good to know, as i have my hand in her mouth. >> i thought you would like to know. >> reporter: i never have done an interview with a clouded leopard on my lap. >> they're like a limp rag. >> reporter: i see why you fall in love with the species. you've been doing with for decades with the one species. >> people that work with them, they all become for the most part, fanatical with the species. >> reporter: after an hour in the cage with belle and button, i can fully understand why. for "nightline," this is dan harris, at the khao kheow zoo in thailand. >> our thanks to dan harris. thank you for watching abc news. we hope you check in for "good morning america." they will be live in utah, with the story of an alleged plot by two teens to bomb their school and now authori